30th Mar 2023

EU and Council of Europe in talks over new fundamental rights agency

Negotiators from the EU and the Council of Europe met on Wednesday (15 March) in Strasbourg to discuss EU plans to set up a new fundamental rights agency in Vienna.

While the 46-member strong Council of Europe believes it holds the primary role in the protection and promotion of human rights in Europe, the EU is pushing to establish its own fundamental rights agency.

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"The agency is expected to bring real added value to the EU institutions and will contribute to more coherence and consistency in the EU human rights policy", a statement after the meeting said.

However, both sides are aware that there could be some overlap if Brussels keeps pushing for its own agency.

"A common understanding that unnecessary duplication with the Council of Europe’s activities is to be avoided," the statement continues.

From 2007, the new EU agency is set to replace the existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in Vienna.

The Vienna centre has provided the EU with information and data on racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and anti-Semitism since 1998.

The Council of Europe says it is not against the setting up of an EU agency for human rights dealing with community laws, but Terry Davis, secretary-general of the organisation, has on several occasions expressed concern about duplication of work.

"With all the best will in the world, I can’t understand what it is going to do", he was quoted as saying by the Financial Times last year.

Later next month a report on how the two bodies could function alongside one another is due to be published.

One idea is to place an independent person appointed by the Council of Europe in the EU agency.

The Council of Europe, set up in 1949, has the advantage of being the oldest human rights monitoring body and includes all 46 European countries, except for Belarus.

The EU is not the only forum for discussions on human rights agencies.

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to replace the current 53-country UN Human Rights Commission with a new smaller body.

The US voted against the plan, saying the reforms did not go far enough, but pledged to work with the new council, according to the BBC.


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